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Physician Assistants, also known as PAs, practice medicine under the direction and supervision of physicians. They are formally trained to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses, and provide treatment. Physician Assistants work in all areas of medicine, including primary care and family medicine, emergency medicine, and psychiatry. The work of PAs depends in large part on their specialty and what their supervising physician needs them to do. For example, a PA working in surgery may close incisions and provide care before and after the operation. A PA working in pediatrics may examine a child or give routine vaccinations.
- Review patients’ medical histories and conduct physical exams to check patients’ health
- Order and interpret diagnostic tests, such as X rays or blood tests
- Make preliminary diagnoses concerning a patient’s injury or illness
- Provide treatment, such as setting broken bones and giving immunizations
- Prescribe medicine
Preparing for Admission
- Resources for researching schools: A complete list of Physician Assistant programs can be found on the PA Program Directory.
- Prerequisite coursework: Each PA program sets its own prerequisite coursework requirements. It is best to review a program’s website for all prerequisites requirements and substitutions, including academic coursework, patient care experience, testing, and more.
- Standardized tests: there is no universally required standardized test for PA admissions. Some programs may require any of the GRE, MCAT, TOEFL, or other science-based testing
- Experience: Most programs require shadowing, volunteer, paid, or any combination of direct patient care experience. Some programs will make recommendations on experience without requirements. Hour requirements vary but can range from 0-4,000 hours
- Evaluations: while most PA programs require three evaluations, others may require less or more. PA programs do not prefer committee letters. Additional information can be found on the CASPA website.
The Admissions Cycle
- There is a Centralized Application Process (CASPA) that 197 of the 210 Physician Assistant programs participate in.
- Application opens: lateApril and can be submitted: from open date until March 1, close date
- Deadlines: there are nine deadline options in a CASPA cycle and they include June 15, July 15, August 1, September 1, October 1, November 1, December 1, January 15, and March 1.
- Fees: $175 for first program, $50 for each additional
- Fee waivers: There is a fee assistance program to help cover application deadlines available to eligible students to apply.
- ADEA has created a thorough instruction manual and FAQ which is helpful for students in the application process.